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Jerry Brown Accused of Covering Up Allegations of Racism By Everett & Jones Restaurant Owner - Oakland Tribune

Article Last Updated: 04/08/2006 3:16 AM PDT

Restaurateur: Brown pledged lease for favor
Mayor, who supported another eatery's boathouse bid, denies quid pro quo agreement
By Heather MacDonald, STAFF WRITER - OAKLAND TRIBUNE

OAKLAND — The owner of Everett & Jones Barbeque said Friday that Mayor Jerry Brown promised her a lucrative lease for a new eatery at the Lake Merritt Boathouse if she defended him from charges of racism.

Through a spokesman, Brown, whose term expires Jan. 1, called the allegation "crazy" and denied the existence of a quid pro quo agreement.

Earlier this week, Brown broke a tie vote of the Oakland City Council in favor of the Beach Chalet Brewery and Restaurant in San Francisco, passing over the popular barbecue joint in Jack London Square.

"I was devastated," Dorothy King said, adding she had no doubt that the decision was motivated by racism and politics.
Brown, running for state attorney general, declined to directly address King's charges, directing questions to his spokesman, Gil Duran.

The $12 million renovation of the historic boathouse, paid for with funds from a bond measure approved by Oakland voters in 2002, should benefit a local business, King said.

"My restaurant is way better — and the fact that it's not even an Oakland restaurant, well, that hurts the most," King said.
At a news conference Friday, King said she went to see Brown in December after learning the deadline to submit aproposal for the new restaurant at the boathouse — the centerpiece of Oakland's efforts to reshape Lake Merritt — had passed without her knowledge.

About the same time, some members of the African-American community publicly accused the mayor of failing to consult with them on important decisions and excluding black firms from lucrative city contracts.

According to King, who is African American, Duran presented her with a letter that praised Brown for helping open the Jack London Square restaurant and dismissed the accusations as "slander." Duran asked her to sign it and send it to the Oakland Tribune, which had published an article detailing the discord, King said.

"I was shocked," King said, adding that she signed it after being promised by Brown the lease on the boathouse would be hers. It was published Dec. 12.

Duran said King's account of the meeting was entirely false. King never spoke with the mayor, and no promises were made, Duran said. The new boathouse restaurant was only mentioned in passing, he added.

"That is not the way this administration operates," Duran said.

After another conversation with King, Duran said the mayor took steps to ensure Everett & Jones was allowed to submit a proposal after the deadline and directed city officials to give it a fair review.

King called for a full investigation and urged other business owners with similar experiences to come forward.

"I am sincerely sorry that I allowed my name and reputation to be associated with Mayor Brown's attempts to silence his critics while running city business based on a system of back-room deals and promises," King said, reading from a prepared statement.

The charges threaten to roil the already hard-fought mayoral race. Council President Ignacio De La Fuente (Glenview-Fruitvale), who voted for the Beach Chalet proposal, faces Councilmember Nancy Nadel (Downtown-West Oakland), who voted for Everett & Jones. Former Congressman Ron Dellums entered the race after a petition drive was launched by many of the same people who accused Brown of harming the black community.

Although King said she had not yet made up her mind in the June 6 election, her daughter Nina Moore stood next to her at the news conference, wearing a "Dellums for Mayor" baseball cap.

The city hired a real estate brokerage, Metrovation, to solicit proposals for the restaurant at the boathouse, said Frank Fanelli, manager of the city's Real Estate Services division.

"The city is not in the restaurant business, and we wanted help from a local real estate firm," Fanelli said.

Metrovation sent out about 100 notices to various businesses, including several out-of-state restaurant chains such as the Cheesecake Factory — but not Everett & Jones. Fanelli said he did not know how many local businesses were solicited.

"How did (the notice) get all the way to San Francisco but it didn't get to me a few blocks up Broadway?" King said. "That's what racism is."

King said she only learned about the opportunity because she saw the large sign advertising it outside the boathouse and contacted the mayor.

King said she planned to offer breakfast, lunch and dinner, plus brunch on weekends, along with an expanded menu that features more than just barbecue brisket, ribs and chicken. King also envisioned hosting weddings and other events in the 10,000-square-foot facility.

In all, about 10 proposals were submitted. The process was restarted to allow King's proposal to be considered, Fanelli said.
A group of city staff members and Metrovation brokers ranked the offer from Gar and Lara Truppelli, owners of the Beach Chalet, first, Fanelli said.

While Beach Chalet offered to make $2million in improvements to the boat house, Everett & Jones offered only $1million, Fanelli said.

"It was a fair process," Fanelli said, adding that it was not weighted to favor the Beach Chalet proposal.

According to Duran, Brown saw no reason to overrule the staff's decision.

"The better offer prevailed," Duran said. "It is always disappointing to lose."

Darrel Carey, who introduced King at the press conference and founded the East Bay Small Business Council, said only about a dozen local firms were invited to submit proposals for the boathouse restaurant — and none were owned by African Americans.

Carey said it was disgraceful that such an important decision was made behind closed doors without public input. However, state law allows municipalities to conduct real estate negotiations in private.

Carey was so incensed by the outcome, he confronted Councilmember Patricia Kernighan (Grand Lake-Chinatown) after the council meeting Tuesday night. Kernighan voted for the Beach Chalet proposal.

Yelling and using profanity, Carey accused Kernighan of harming the community, and the situation escalated until her chief of staff, Chris Tom, stepped in front of the council member and asked Carey to leave.

Fanelli said the city hopes to finalize a deal with the Truppellis as soon as possible to speed the rehabilitation of the boathouse.

King said she is determined to get the decision overturned, but was unsure what her next step would be.
E-mail Heather MacDonald at
hmacdonald@angnewspapers.com.
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